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Marine shoulders weight to raise awareness

Carrying 22 kilograms 26.2 miles to bring awareness about military suicides

Martin Park wearing the 22 kg (48.5 pound) rucksack that he will carry during the Tacoma City Marathon May 1. Photo credit: Susan Melnyk

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At the Tacoma City Marathon May 1, most runners will shed their backpacks before the starting line to lighten the load they carry through the 26.2 miles.  One person, preparing to run his first competitive marathon, will do the exact opposite by hoisting a 22 kg (48.5 pound) rucksack onto his back to start the journey.  For 24-year-old Martin Park, a former active-duty marine with TECOM, now serving as a reservist with November battery 5th battalion, 14th Marines, the significance of the weight is more important than the race itself.

"When I transitioned out of active-duty, it was a huge change.  I started thinking about those who were working through the things they'd faced in combat, many not getting the support they deserved," Park explained.

After learning about Race For a Soldier, the half marathon and 5K event supporting the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation, Park knew that he wanted to be involved.  The foundation was created when Leslie Mayne began the unimaginable task of trying to make sense of the loss of her son, Pfc. Kyle Farr.  Upon returning from a 2006 Iraq deployment and undergoing treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, Kyle took his own life.  The loss drove Mayne to want to focus the public's attention on the struggles our servicemembers face and to help them find a way forward.

Although it is next to impossible to know how many servicemembers are lost every year to suicide, a 2013 study by the Veterans Administration estimated that as many as 22 military members take their own lives each day.  

The 22 kilograms that Park will shoulder for the 26.2 miles signifies every one of those 22 daily losses as well as the weight that many veterans and active-duty servicemembers carry with them every day.  The long-term effects of PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and living with service-related injuries, along with the often jarring transition from military life to the civilian world, makes for a complex set of struggles that can seem to work against even the bravest amongst us.

"I needed it to be more than a number.  I needed it to be concrete," Park said, referring to the rucksack that will accompany him on the marathon.  "We have so many military members around Tacoma and JBLM, but at times it feels as though we are almost invisible to the general public.  If this gets just one more person talking about our servicemembers ... becoming more aware of the support they need when returning home, that's what it is all about."

Park's goal is to raise $2,200 in time for the marathon, with all donations going directly to the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation and the various PTSD and TBI programs they provide grants to.  He has been humbled by the outpouring of support from his coworkers, others training for the marathon, and the entire team at the foundation.

"When I'm training, I sometimes wonder how I'll make it with the pack.  But when I think about the things our veterans have been through and are dealing with, I know I'll find a way."

The Tacoma City Marathon takes place May 1, with Park getting an early start to manage the run/jog pace he'll need to take over the five-and-a-half hours, due to the added weight.  

Donations can be made through May 2 on the Crowdrise website at or by searching 26.2 with 22 on   

Race For a Soldier will be held Sept. 25 in Gig Harbor and donations can be made directly on the website:  Volunteers are always appreciated and runners can learn more about the half marathon, 5K and kids fun run online.

For information about the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation, visit or call 253.432.0036.

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